It’s Christmas in March for Jimi Hendrix fans, as the latest collection of previously unreleased songs from the Seattle guitar legend comes out Tuesday. And judging from the reaction of fans old and new alike, it’s an exceptional collection that showcases where he was going musically at the time of his death.
The 12 tracks that make up “People, Hell and Angels” were recorded in 1968 and 1969 with a collection of noted musicians including Buddy Miles and Stephen Stills as Hendrix sought to branch out from the limits of the Jimi Hendrix Experience – his trio with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding.
“So you’ve got some other players involved and I think that it kind of shows the diversity of his playing. I think that it shows the direction he was going, trying to branch out and play with other people,” says Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s sister and head of Experience Hendrix, the company that oversees Jimi’s estate.
Hendrix says Jimi wanted to experiment with a variety of styles and was talking with artists like Miles Davis and Emerson, Lake and Palmer before his untimely death from accidental overdose in 1970 at 27.
“In itself it was a different journey in his music, it was like picking up other characters like the Yellow Brick Road,” she says of the recordings made in 1968 and 1969.
“I just think that when you listen to the dozen songs that are on this album they’re all different yet they’re all so creative and just really does show his evolution in music writing and playing and his versatility as an artist to not only be the front but also to be the mojo man.”
While it seems like there’s been a nearly endless supply of posthumous recordings, Janie insists she and the other keepers of the estate are extremely critical of what they’ve released, only putting out the best to preserve his legacy. She says the new album is likely the last studio recording Experience Hendrix will release.
“I think it’s really about making sure that his music stays as pure as possible and I think he’s proud. I think he knows that we’re taking care of what he left behind and that’s what he hoped for,” she says.
Fans seem to agree. “Somewhere,” the first track from the new album, hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Singles chart, proving there’s still plenty of demand for Jimi’s music.
As for the title, Janie says she discovered the single line “People Hell and Angels” when she was digging through Jimi’s archives for last year’s “Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Lyric Book”. They weren’t associated with any song or lyrics, but “it was just kind of like a beacon of light that said ‘this is it, this is the title of the album,’ so we picked it.”